Qwantani's 53 self-catering chalets that offer each unit magnificent views. Photo: Supplied

‘I CAN'T smaak a dam, especially in winter,” said Tanya. “This is not just any dam,” I replied. “It's Sterkfontein”. Sterkfontein is special in my opinion and I kept twisting Tanya's arm. She's been thanking me since.

Qwantani Berg and Bush Resort was our destination, equidistant from Durban and Joburg (about four hours).

We cruised via Oliviershoek Pass which is less hassle than Van Reenen’s Pass and way prettier. Plus, it takes you right around the vast, beautiful dam.

It was midweek, mid-winter and out of season, yet there were families, couples and pooches aplenty.

That says a lot about a place. Qwantani’s 53 self-catering chalets are perched above the shimmering dam on a slope that affords each unit magnificent views .

The chalets are all three bedroom, six-sleepers with two bathrooms, a TV with selected DSTV channels, a fireplace, a private braai area and a well-equipped kitchen.

And they are serviced except on Sundays and public holidays. Resort manager Shawn Mctaggart made sure we were settled in our unit and then it was time to explore.

You choose what you want out of Qwantani. If you want to chill - especially in winter - it's perfect. You are in a 19 000 hectare reserve and so very removed from all hustle and bustle.

If you want stuff to do, choices are exhaustive and as exhausting as you might like them to be. There is a daily entertainment programme with Jann Ludik in charge of kids of all ages.

There are loads of mountain bikes for hire for the whole family, two squash courts, tennis courts with adventure golf alongside under tall trees, horse riding, volleyball, trampolines and more in the play area.

If you're a wind or kite surfer, when the high winds blow they will take you on a joy ride across the vast expanse of water, spanning about 7 000 hectares.

In summer, add any number of other of water activities and, of course, fishing.

Qwantani’s 53 self-catering chalets that offer each unit magnificent views. Photo: Supplied


Sterkfontein Dam, the third biggest in South Africa, ranks as one of the finest yellowfish hotspots in South Africa, since the very clear water lends itself to excellent sight fishing.

There are also large numbers of sharptooth catfish, some very big, as well as common carp. That clear water is generally so clean that it's quite safe to drink, let alone play in or on.

In the reserve you will find yellowwoods in the kloofs, springbok on the plains, black wildebeest, blesbok, mountain reedbuck and plenty of eland on hikes and walks, plus 230 recorded species of birds, including the Cape vulture and the bearded vulture.

It is green and lush in summer but in winter it is starkly beautiful, with many a cliff and cave to admire or explore.

Qwantani has conferencing and wedding facilities and the La Vita Spa is popular with brides-to-be- and it certainly was with Tanya.

One treatment became another, and another, as she and, petite but strong, spa manageress Portia Mafane bonded while I was out on a barge cruise with Jann and getting the lay of the land and waters.

Pooches. I mentioned them. Well, Qwantani is pet friendly, within reason.

A couple of bounding Great Danes would not go down well, but there were pampered poodles in prams, with their doting mums and dads getting more exercise than their fur babies.

It was lovely to see families enjoying the outdoor facilities - mums and dads swaddled in layers and kids typically careering about barefoot.

The (very) fresh air whet my appetite but not any culinary urges, so we tried out the Marshall Eagle Restaurant in the main building one evening, for some home-style grub - not that I would attempt such delicious lamb shanks.

The roomy bar and the lounge are alongside and this is where the Wi-Fi is strongest, though some chalets are in range too.

A smouldering fire brings you that warm cosy feeling. Photo: Supplied


But why would you need it, unless, like me, you have the odd work wrinkle to iron out?

There's a shop if you've forgotten anything and, thankfully, petrol and diesel as the nearest towns - Clarens and Harrismith - are almost 50km away.

Our two nights was less than I would have liked.

Relaxing in extremis made packing and getting on the road again a bind, though the road through the reserve was so pretty.

We took an age to get around the dam and reluctantly pick up speed again.